Abbington plays Mary Morstan, the fiancee of John Watson (Martin Freeman), best friend and partner-in-crime-investigation to a 21st century Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch). In real life, Abbington and Freeman have been together for nearly 14 years and have two children, eight-year-old Joe and five-and-a-half-year-old Grace.
Sitting with Zap2it during a recent visit to Southern California, Abbington recalls that, during filming, she thought, “‘Well, we’ve done this now, haven’t we? We’re doing this now. We’re having a party; I’m in a wedding dress; I’ve got a ring on; I just need to change my name by deed poll, and that’s it.'”
Asked why there hasn’t been a real-life wedding thus far, Abbington says, “Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe one day we will. It sometimes does [come up], ‘Should we do it? I think we will, eventually. Our children are saying now, ‘Mummy, you should get married.’ They know we’re not. Especially my son, who’s going, ‘Please, Mama, please be married.’ Maybe we’ll do it in Italy.
“We did think about it, in Sorrento, because that’s where we go as a family. Maybe we’ll go and do it just with the children. I think that’s where I’m going to go and retire. I can see myself sitting in an old olive grove with some wine.”
As fans saw in the Season 3 premiere, Mary warmed up to Sherlock quickly and helped heal the rift caused by him faking his death and leaving John to grieve for two years. And when Mary told John that she liked Sherlock, he didn’t exactly have a pleased look on his face.
“He had to deal with that,” says Abbington, “‘Oh, God, my girlfriend really likes him. I’ve got to do something about it.’ But I like that she pushes them together and gets them both to see a bit of sense. I like that.
“They love each other. They do genuinely love each other, and it was a terrible thing that Sherlock did. That’s because he’s a sociopath, and she understands that. I’ve said this, I think they’re all pretty screwed up.”
American viewers will have to wait a bit to see why Abbington includes Mary in that category (and there’ll be more in this space about it), but there will be hints in Sunday’s episode. In the meantime, Abbington is happy Mary is who she is.
“I really like her. I think she’s really strong. She’s got a bit of a sense of humor and isn’t going to be bowled over by Sherlock or John,” she says. “They can be quite intimidating, the pair of them together, and she doesn’t stand for that.”
What Abbington doesn’t particularly like is the tendency of some rabid fans — as alluded to in the premiere episode — who insist on concocting a romantic relationship where none exists; as, for example, between Sherlock and John. It’s especially worrisome to her when they make pictures of it and put them on the Internet.
“It’s one where you have to be very careful what you say to them,” she says. “You have to be very careful of how you broach that. You can’t be too critical … you have to pretend that it’s not out there. But it’s on the Internet for everybody to see. It’s a phenomenon; it really is.
“I’ve seen some particularly explicit paintings of Martin and Ben. Let’s not say it’s John and Sherlock; it’s Martin and Ben, because you don’t see Basil Rathbone and his Watson. I don’t think it’s about the characters; it becomes about the actors.
“It’s just out there for everyone to see, and at some point, my son is going to want to Google his dad. It’s the sort of thing where, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I had a diary when I was that age, and I wrote everything in my diary. The fact that you can now put it on the Internet and get really cross about it when people make a comment on it, it just makes me think, that’s interesting.
“Don’t put it on the Internet, then, if you don’t want somebody to comment on it. It’s immediately accessible, and it’s immediately public.”
On whether Mary’s relationship with John is anything like hers with Freeman, Abbington says, “I suppose. We do laugh an awful lot still, which is great. We’ve been together nearly 14 years, and he’s still the only person that can make me howl with laughter. I suppose there are elements of it. Martin’s less uptight than John, and I’m not who I am.
“Certain elements do come in; parts of you do cross over when you’re acting, because that’s what makes it a very natural performance.”
According to Abbington, Mary fell for John because “I think she thought he was hurting. She thought she could fix him. I think she saw the danger in him; she likes that element of danger. She sees that in Sherlock as well. she likes a little bit of left-field-ness in her men, and I like that.
“I like freaky; I think freaky’s good sometimes. He really loves her, and she loves him. You see that throughout the series.”
Although Abbington and Freeman have discussed moving to America — especially considering the U.K.’s current long spate of rainy, gray weather — Abbington is eager to protect the innocence of their children.
“They love their schools,” she says. “They come home, and they’re like, ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you.’ They’ve got their little uniforms on, their blazers, and they look lovely. I want them to stay children for as long as possible. Kids grow up far too quickly.
“It frightens me a bit. I love the innocence that they have at these schools. It’s all about manners. Gracie does pottery in French. That’s fine with me. That’s what she should be doing at five-and-a-half. Joe is obsessed with Legos.”
Incidentally, Freeman was in Los Angeles the week before to promote his new FX limited series “Fargo,” and said he was “gutted” to not be crossing paths there with Abbington because of work schedules.
Told that, she says, “I’m gutted too.”